I don’t get out of the city limits much, unless I am on a plane. So I enjoyed my stimulating car ride to Lancaster Co. the other day. I went to a morning-long meeting that came equipped with hugs, affirmation and encouragement from good-hearted people trying to do good things. The added benefit was that I had nine hours to meditate and cogitate. I want to share some results.
The results are promises. They are in reaction to what I experienced, but not in opposition. I’m not even going to mention what meeting I was at, because what I say might sound personally critical — I have no general aspersions to cast, so don’t go there. But the general impact of my day away was to be warned of three temptations we are facing. I am feeling the Ephesians 6 battle today. The meeting caused me to remember my first love. So I am constrained to do with God and you what I did when I first faced the need to practice fidelity to my wife: I made a promise. I think we have new promises to make to one another before the Lord these days.
If we are going to “do everything and stand,” I think these are among the things we need to say to the Lord, to ourselves, to each other and to the powers.
I will stay as human as humanly possible.
We will not bend the knee to what we have created to amplify our capacity.
The temptation: I have been to a few worship times, now, in which the worship leader is a small person made huge on a screen. The screen is the mediator of the worship in words and pictures. This past weekend I had the bizarre experience of a speaker playing a video of himself and turning to watch himself give a speech instead of just talking to the 3-400 people who were in the room! Christians need to rage against the machine, at least we should use them consciously and not just conform to the technology available just because it is available. And leaders (like me) need to be careful not to create an atmosphere for people who give us charge of their souls in which those unsuspecting people are lured into further complicity with the godless technology powers.
If I want to know the truth about you, I will ask you.
We will not bend our knee to data.
The temptation: I was listening to a presentation about a group in which I am deeply involved. The speaker was talking about our financial health and presenting different charts and conclusions about our downward-trending patterns. I was tracking with the presentation until he got to the point where he said, ‘We don’t know why the contributions are less.” The data was inconclusive. I thought to myself, “Wait a minute!!” If all the staff picked up the phone and made about twelve phone calls a week, they could ask all the local leaders about the giving, personally, and have a conclusion about the downtrend in a month! Data makes our love lazy; as Facebook amply demonstrates, data can make our community illusional. I think the powers want Jesus himself to be seen as just another collection of data and want his people to mediate their relationships with sociological analysis.
I will make history with you.
We will not bend the knee to precedent.
The temptation: I am connected to two organizations which had interesting opportunities to be inclusive in their meetings last weekend and almost made it. But they were thwarted by their own history. Each has a strong, Central Pennsylvania sense of being “us.” When they talk about their somewhat new, multicultural, multiethnic nature, they talk about how “we” are becoming diverse. I usually feel like I am one of the people who has added the diversity to “us”, since I am an Auslander from Philadelphia (still the cradle of democracy) and I have all the elements of otherness: bits of Native American ancestry, sprinklings of radical politics, and, the main thing, no family history in Central PA. Of all the people in the world, we Christians, who have been born again into a new family in Jesus, should be very adaptable when it comes to being respectful of but unattached to our history. The people who made us who we are would be proud if we made who’s coming next who they are. I know Jesus is sending forth His Spirit to meet the unbelievers of the megalopolis pushing their way into Lititz. Our past may enrich how we love them, but our relationships are going to make a new memory in Christ.
As you think and pray with me, what comes to mind as the temptations the powers are throwing in your way? Are they some of the same things? Thinking bigger, what do the powers throw in our way, as a people? As we incarnate Jesus, speak the truth in love and keep our eyes on giving the best we have to offer to our era, we have great opportunity to live out of our true selves in Jesus and make a difference. I am encouraged all over again, just thinking about the possibilities that could be realized by keeping our promises.